“There you go again, dismissing me because I have ‘white privilege’. Which I don’t.”
It came up in an online community that I’m involved with recently, during a discussion surrounding Cultural Appropriation. And as usual when the topic of White Privilege comes up; someone white invariably pipes up to deny their race privilege, insisting that they are poor – therefore cannot possibly have White Privilege. I’m going to come back to the issue of Cultural Appropriation – but for now, let’s focus on the issue of White Privilege. What IS White Privilege? Being poor, doesn’t preclude one from having race privilege. There are many different types of privilege; class privilege, race privilege, gender privilege. So if you’re a white, middle class male – it’s basically like you won a lottery you didn’t enter. You are afforded certain privileges, based on your race. Invariably, this discussion often throws out these gems: “but I didn’t ask to be born white!” Or “I’m not a racist!” But here’s the kicker: whether or not you personally contribute to racist ideals, you still benefit from institutionalised, systemic racism. You can walk along a footpath, and assume that if people cross the road, it isn’t to avoid you – and while you walk, it’s also reasonable to assume that you won’t be unfairly targeted by law enforcement. Furthermore, you won’t be unfairly tarnished by negative stereotypes about your race that have become so ingrained that society believes them to be fact. You won’t be labled because of your race (If the Bali Bomber was a white male – no one would therefore assume that all white people are terrorist). Your white privilege allows you to speak on any subject, without being the sole representative of your race, or be dismissed as “the angry blackfulla”. You know that you aren’t likely to be denied a loan, job or education based on your race. If you are an articulate, intelligent person; no one will be the least bit surprised by that. White Privilege means that the dominant majorty is catered for. Ask yourself what colour bandaids are supposed to be. If you answered with “skin colour”, ask yourself; “who’s skin?!”. White Privilege is the privilege to be completely ignorant of the world around us. And the only way to change that, is to open your eyes and ears and really aknowledge your own privilege.
For further reading about White Privilege, I suggest you read “White Privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack” by Peggy Mcintosh: